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The Economist explains: Is the world running out of food?

NOT in the short term. Stocks of grain and other foods are high, with another bumper harvest due in the northern hemisphere this year. Food prices have been dropping in real terms since a spike in 2011. The number of hungry people has been falling too, by 167 million in the past decade (according to the rough estimates used by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), chiefly thanks to progress in China and India. Yet that leaves nearly 800m, a third of which are in Africa. The UN reckons that one measure, “prevalence of undernourishment” has dropped from 18.6% of the world population in 1990–92 to 10.9% now. That broadly meets a target the world set itself in 2000, in the Millennium Development Goals.

But international bodies such as the G7 are worried about the coming decades. The world’s population will exceed nine billion in 2050, with most of the growth in developing countries. The United States Department of Agriculture reckons that the number of hungry (“food insecure”) people in sub-Saharan Africa will rise by a third. The FAO reckons that food production will need to increase by 70%. Worries abound. Crop yields are flat. And many trends are negative: new crop diseases, urbanisation, desertification, salinisation and soil erosion, which outstrips renewal even in developed countries.That does not mean disaster is looming. Agricultural productivity is …

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